PGCMC Throws Weight Behind Bills

Prince George's County Muslim Council Throws Weight Behind Bills Supporting HBCUs and Database Tracking Anti-Bias Incidents on Campus

Hena Zuberi | TML 02 March 2018 

The Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC) lobbied elected officials to support bills Fair Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Maryland and Reporting of Bias Crimes on college campuses on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
The council’s delegation, led by Jameel Aalim-Johnson, met with several representatives including Darryl Barnes (D-25), Prince George's County. Del Barnes expressed interest in working closely with the Muslim community and emphasized “getting out of our silos.”

Jameel Johnson and Jamila Malik in Annapolis

The bill, SB-252, which would implement the Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI (Historically Black Institutions) Comparability Program, is the initiative of Maryland State Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43). She has championed economic parity between all state schools for a decade.

“The historically Black institutions have not been funded at the same rate that the traditionally White institutions have,” Conway told members of the State Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in support of SB-252, the 2018 version of legislation first introduced in 2008. The House version of the bill, HB450 was introduced by Del. Mosby.

Talib Karim, an associate professor at Bowie State University testified for the bill at the committee hearing. "Prince George’s County Muslim Council supports Senate Bill 252 (Sen. Conway) and House Bill 450 (Del. Mosby). These bills seek to ensure fair funding for all Maryland colleges and universities, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Specifically, the pair of bills introduced in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly would undue decades of discriminatory funding of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs, also called HBIs). If passed, the measure would appropriate funds to provide supplemental state funding to HBIs to ensure that they are comparable and competitive with other public four-year institutions of higher education in Maryland."

After the Civil War, African American education bloomed, say experts. African American ministers and white philanthropists established schools to educate the formerly enslaved. These schools, more than 100 of which are still exist today, are known as historically black colleges and universities, HBCUs, or HBIs. Maryland has 4 such institutions: Bowie State University, Morgan State University, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

“They started in church basements, they started in old schoolhouses, they started in people’s homes,” says Marybeth Gasman, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania who studies HBCUs to American Radio Works. “[Formerly enslaved people] were hungry for learning … because of course, education had been kept from them.”

During the era of segregation, the most brilliant African American educators had to come to HBCUs. They were not allowed to go any place else, say historians. In the 1950-60s, in accordance with federal laws, almost all African American college students attended HBCUs. The first African-American, Hiram Whittle, was admitted to the University of Maryland in 1951. Jamila Malik, of PGCMC, and an alumna of Morgan State University, was at the state capitol because she has experienced the difference between the two categories of schools.

“I earned my first degree from Fashion Institute of Technology- State University of New York (FIT) located in the heart of NYC. FIT is considered the flagship institute of the fashion world, top of the line, first class, cutting edge, and state of the art institution of higher education,” she said. “As my life evolve in my pursuit of higher education, I earned my 3rd and 4th degree from the HBCU Morgan State University in Baltimore. Therefore, I have strong comparative sense of a well-oiled machine and a clanker,” she stated.

“While on campus, MSU’s new library was being built in [the] early 2000s, but when it came to deeper research we still to had to use the consortium of partner colleges and universities because our books were so outdated and sparse,” shared Malik.
“This is just one scenario of many. The Middle Atlantic HBI are getting more funding for buildings and dorms but the infrastructure of materials, equipment, new programs, competitive faculty salaries and benefits lags behind,” she stressed.

Governor Hogan recently offered $100 million over ten years for all four schools. “That is a non starter,” said Aalim-Johnson.
"These bills are particularly important given the offer by Maryland’s governor to settle a lawsuit brought by supporters of MD HBIs. Under the terms of the settlement, the institutions would divide funds that would amount to less than $4M annually over 10 years. SB 252/HB 450 would offer additional funds needed for the HBIs to build new facilities, create new science and other academic programs, and launch expanded marketing campaigns to attract more students to their campuses," stated Karim.

Malik believes that the brain drain from HBCUs has affected graduation rates of students, especially in STEM subjects, from HBCUs. In a recent decision on a decade long lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake barred the state’s higher education commission from allowing the state’s traditionally white institutions from duplicating the historically black schools’ unique STEM academic programs.

In recent years, Morgan State has expanded its outreach to international students. According to World Education News & Reviews (WENR) a journal for professionals in international education, the numbers of Saudis have increased at these insitutions. Saudi Arabia is the top country of origin among international students at HBCUs, though these institutions have often struggled to attract international students. Many have developed partnerships with institutions in Saudi Arabia, as is the case for Morgan State University in Baltimore.

The Council urges the Muslim community to also call their elected officials about The "Public Institutions of Higher Education Hate-Bias Incident Prevention" bill, which seeks to prevent bias crimes on college campuses.

Sponsored by Del. Angela Angel (D-Prince George's), HB511 was written in response to the rising number of incidents occurring in the state, including the fatal stabbing of Bowie State University senior Lt. Richard Collins III on the campus of the University of Maryland College Park. His murder is being tried as a hate crime. The prosecutor discovered that the murderer was a member of an white supremacist online group.

Protests by students followed the terrorizing attack, refocusing on racial issues at the College Park campus including incidents earlier in the year, such as the discovery of a noose in a fraternity house and posters promoting white supremacy.
The university's Black Student Union said Maryland administrators "enabled Urbanski through their consistent dismissal of blatant hate speech and race-biased crimes." Many students of color agreed.

In May, University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace D. Loh announced a series of actions to fight hate on campus, including the creation of a task force on bias and campus safety.

She expressed appreciation for the help of PGCMC in lobbying for the passage of the bill. 
HB511 would also cover incidents that do not rise to the level of a hate crime.

During 2016, several Maryland Muslim students reported having their hijab pulled off. These were treated like bias incidents. To many Muslim women, this is assault, which should be treated like a hate crime.

This bill aims to establish a uniform response to bias incidents across all public colleges and universities. It would require the schools to develop response plans to incidents, notify students whenever there is one, and have a publicly available database tracking each incident.

It would also require institutions to have a mandatory educational program to teach incoming students about hate-bias incidents, what resources are available, and how to report them.

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